Confessions of foreign entertainers working in Korea
As of 2021, the number of foreigners
living in Korea posted
(Korea Immigration Statistics)
foreigners are working
in the entertainment
industry under the E-6 visa.
The E-6 visa is broken into three sub-categories: the E-6-1 visa is for foreigners who plan to engage in profitable activities such as music, fine arts, and literature, or professional acting, or professional entertainment activities in accordance with the Public Performance Act.
This visa allows foreigners to appear on TV, act on Korean dramas or movies, do voice acting, shoot commercials and do modeling work.
The E-6-2 visa is for those who plans to engage in performance or entertainment activities at hotel business facilities and adult entertainment facilities in accordance with Tourism Promotion Acts.
Singers or artists who want to perform at hotels and entertainment establishments need this type of visa.
For these foreign entertainers who have been longing to work in the Korean entertainment industry, obtaining the E-6 visa was surely a dream-come-true moment. Until they had to experience for themselves that there is a very dark side to the industry.
According to a survey on 129 migrant artists by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in 2014,
53.4% did not receive their wages on time
46% had their passports or alien
taken by their employers
53% experienced verbal abuse
46.4% experienced physical assault
55% experienced sexual harassment
Migrant artists in Korea have fallen victim to human rights violations for many years now.
Although Korea’s emergence as a soft power leader has attracted more migrant artists to the country than ever before, many E-6 visa holders – which include hard-working artists, athletes, and performers – are still being deprived of their basic rights and freedoms. This ranges from unpaid wages to human trafficking violations and sexual abuse, according to local civic groups.
Performance artists who hold E6-2 visas in particular are often being sent to work at seedy nightlife establishments where they are forced to serve drinks and even engage in prostitution.
Due to their legal status in the country, many of these migrant workers are powerless to resist and unable to speak out about these violations, some of which are serious enough to be described as a modern form of human trafficking.
We sat down with several migrant artists who are either currently working in Korea or had the experience of doing so in the past, for a raw and honest account of their experiences.